National Marine Plan: Sustainability Appraisal Report

This report summarises the findings from a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) of the draft National Marine Plan (NMP). SA of the draft plan is required by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The SA has considered the potential social, economic and enviro

Non-Technical Summary


1. Marine Scotland has prepared a draft National Marine Plan ( NMP) for Scotland, in accordance with the requirements of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The draft plan covers both Scottish inshore waters (0-12 nautical miles) and offshore waters (12-200 nautical miles) (Figure 1).

2. The Scottish and United Kingdom Governments have agreed that the national marine plan for Scottish inshore waters and a marine plan covering Scottish offshore waters will be published in one document and will be collectively referred to as the "National Marine Plan". However, it is recognised that the "National Marine Plan" comprises two plans prepared under two separate pieces of legislation.

Figure 1. Nautical Limits around Scotland

Figure 1. Nautical Limits around Scotland

What is Sustainability Appraisal?

3. This report summarises the findings from a Sustainability Appraisal ( SA) of the draft National Marine Plan ( NMP). SA of the draft plan is required by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The SA has considered the potential social, economic and environmental effects of the draft plan. The environmental component of the SA is also required under Directive 2001/42/ EC and the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005.

4. As noted above, SA identifies the likely socio-economic and environmental impacts of plans and policies, and alternatives to them. Taking place at an early stage in the plan preparation process, it ensures that decision-making is informed by relevant environmental and socio-economic information. SA provides opportunities for the public to consider this information and use it to inform their views on the draft plan or policy.

What is the National Marine Plan?

5. The National Marine Plan ( NMP) is a five-year plan which sets out a national-level framework for the management of Scotland's marine environment. Its purpose is to assist in managing increasing demand for the use of Scotland's marine environment, encourage the economic development of marine industries and incorporate environmental protection and social considerations into marine decision-making. It also has a role to play in managing the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.

6. The NMP brings together existing national-level policy on the marine environment, provides new policy where this is required at the national level, sets the policy framework for regional marine plans and provides direction to marine and terrestrial decision-makers.

7. The draft NMP has been developed for all users of the sea, including (amongst others) the renewable energy sector, fishing, tourism, leisure and recreational users, ports and harbours, aquaculture and transport. A full list is provided in paragraph 9.

8. The draft NMP contains:

  • the vision for the marine environment, set out in Marine Scotland's marine vision and agreed at the UK level in the Marine Policy Statement;
  • the objectives for the draft plan, based on: the Scottish Government's national objectives; the High Level Marine Objectives; the criteria for 'good environmental status' under the MSFD; and the climate change objectives set out in the relevant legislation;
  • sector-specific objectives; and
  • policies.

9. The NMP's policies are provided in two parts:

  • Cross cutting policies: focusing on sustainable economic growth, sustainable development, communities, decision-making, engagement, and the environment. These policies apply to all decisions made in the marine environment and are relevant to all sectors. They ensure that sustainable economic growth and sustainable development remain a priority, so long as they are undertaken in a manner which is sensitive to local communities, the environment, other uses and the long-term existence of the resource.
  • Sector-specific objectives and policies: supporting the economic growth of a sector, managing conflicts between marine users or managing particular environmental impacts, for the following sectors:
  • sea fisheries
  • aquaculture
  • wild salmon and migratory fish
  • oil and gas
  • carbon capture and storage
  • offshore renewable energy
  • recreation and tourism
  • telecommunications cables
  • transport: shipping, ports, harbours and ferries
  • defence
  • aggregates

10. The draft plan aims to achieve the Scottish Government's vision for the marine environment of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas, managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people. It will do this by delivering strategic objectives that will:

  • achieve a sustainable economy,
  • ensure a strong, healthy and just society,
  • respect environmental limits,
  • promote good governance, and
  • use sound science responsibly.

How was the Sustainability Appraisal undertaken?

11. This is a strategic-level appraisal of national-level planning policies and sectoral objectives and policies, which broadly assesses their expected effects. A series of key questions ('sustainability appraisal objectives') is used to structure the assessment. Information about the existing marine environment has been used to inform the appraisal and define these appraisal objectives. The appraisal identifies the individual and collective effects of the draft plan's policies and objectives on: the economy (including other users of the sea); communities, population and human health; and environmental features.

12. The appraisal identifies positive and negative effects, including 'cumulative' effects. The assessment has been systematic, and the findings are recorded in a series of tables. The significant impacts are described in detail in the Sustainability Appraisal Report.

Which reasonable alternatives have been assessed?

13. The alternative approaches to the preparation of the draft NMP were considered at the start of and during the marine planning process, and these have been assessed by the SA.

14. Three alternative approaches were identified. The first (do nothing) would continue using the current approach to marine management. The second considered whether different approaches should be used: should the NMP be a high-level strategic plan ( i.e. more policy-based) or should it be a high-level spatial plan ( i.e. identifying proposals in specific areas)? The third looked at alternative priorities for the NMP: should it be economically-focused? Should it make the environment a priority? Or should it be based on sustainable development, which focuses on the economy, the environment, and social/community interests?

What is the current state of the environment?

15. Scotland's seas are among the most biologically diverse and productive in the world, supporting an estimated 6,500 species of marine animals and plants.

16. Scotland's marine biodiversity is protected by a range of European, UK and Scottish-level designations. Key habitat types include estuaries; lagoons; large shallow inlets and bays; mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide; reefs; sandbanks which are slightly covered by seawater all the time; submarine structures made by leaking gases; and submerged or partially submerged sea caves. Key animal species include cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), seals, seabirds, fish (including sharks, skates and rays) and turtles.

17. Scotland's seas are mostly classed as being of good or better status under the Water Framework Directive (out to 3 nautical miles). There are some poorer quality waters in certain areas, such as the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. The key risks to the quality of the water environment are from contamination as a result of marine activities, such as the use of anti-fouling paint, pollution from oil and/or chemical spills, and pollution of coastal waters from activities on land, in particular from agricultural activities.

18. Climate change is predicted to lead to an increase in water temperature and acidity, a rise in sea levels, changes in wave heights and changes to coastlines. Climate change is already having an impact on weather patterns. Changes in temperature, levels and timing of rainfall, and more extreme weather events are all expected, affecting other aspects of the environment.

19. In general, the marine sediments around Scotland are sandy or gravelly and originate from deposits during the Quaternary glaciation. Muddy sediments are located principally near-shore or, if further offshore, in depressions on the sea floor where currents may be relatively weak.

20. Scottish waters are quite different between the east and west coasts. The east coast presents mostly uniform depths and shallow inclines interspersed with localised trenches, while the seabed off Scotland's west coast shelves steeply away from the coast, and deep waters occur relatively close to the land.

21. Scotland has high quality landscapes, with many iconic views and scenic areas. Nationally important landscapes are protected as National Scenic Areas, over half of which include coastal and marine elements. Scotland also has extensive areas of relatively remote and inaccessible wild land, particularly in the north and west. Much of the Scottish coastal landscape continues to change through coastal processes such as wave action, sediment movement, erosion and accretion.

22. Scotland's seas and coasts support a wide range of historic and archaeological sites. These are found on the coast, the foreshore and the seabed, ranging from the remains of ships and aircraft lost at sea to harbours, lighthouses and other structures along the coast.

23. In 2011 the population of Scotland was estimated at 5.295 million people. Coastal communities (within 5 km of the coast) make up around 41% of the total population of Scotland. Around two-thirds of people in coastal communities live in large towns and cities; the remainder live in small towns and rural areas, or on isolated parts of the coast.

24. Coastal communities play an important role in Scotland's economy, and many areas are economically successful. Nearly 2% of Scottish employment was in the core marine sector in 2008 and, of this, about one-third was in the fishing, fish farming or fish processing sectors.

25. The majority of coastal communities appear to suffer less income and employment deprivation than the inner city and urban areas in Scotland's central belt. The exceptions are clusters of urban communities in the south-west around Ayr and Irvine, in the north-east around Aberdeen, in Eilean Siar and in some parts of south-west Dumfriesshire.

26. Connectivity is one of the key challenges facing rural and island communities. Lifeline ferry and air services are therefore important in supporting connectivity.

27. Research indicates that, from a health perspective, coastal zones are less likely to be deprived than inland areas.


28. There are many pressures on Scotland's seas. An example of some of the pressures on marine biodiversity is provided in Box 1.

Box 1. Pressures on marine biodiversity

Commercial fishing:

  • removal of target fish species may affect the sustainability of fish stocks
  • discards of fish are a waste of the resource, and also encourage scavenger species
  • bycatch inadvertently catches both non-target fish and other species, generally leading to the death of individuals and subsequent decline in populations
  • the seabed and its benthic habitat may be damaged by mobile fishing gear, with the consequent loss of marine plants and animals
  • removal of target species may also decrease the availability of prey species, leading to declines in populations e.g. of birds

Non-native invasive species may outcompete native species, thereby displacing them from the marine environment.

Marine litter can result in the injury and/or death of marine animals.

Climate change, through increasing sea temperatures, acidification, changes to rainfall patterns, etc:

  • may result in populations of marine animals and plants moving further north
  • may give rise to population decline
  • may result in new competitors arriving in Scottish waters, including non-native invasive species

What are the likely significant environmental effects of the draft NMP?

29. This SA has undertaken a high-level assessment of the sector-specific objectives and policies in the draft NMP. A summary is provided in the following paragraphs.


30. The objectives and policies of the draft NMP recognise and address the potential for effects on biodiversity, while recognising that the NMP will work in conjunction with the overall legislative and policy framework for the marine environment. Many recognise the need for development and use to be sustainable. In addition, some sectors include policies to deal with specific issues. For example, the policies for sea fisheries focus on managing fishing to ensure sustainability of fish stocks. They also identify the desired outcomes for sea fisheries of marine planning, e.g. protection of vulnerable stocks, improved protection of the seabed, and the need for other sectors (when planning their activities) to take into account the need to protect fish and shellfish stocks and sustain healthy fisheries. The aquaculture policies explicitly address the potential effects of aquaculture on biodiversity, for example through an overarching requirement that aquaculture must be located appropriately, in conjunction with a requirement that these effects are addressed in planning and development. These policies, in conjunction with the cross-cutting biodiversity policies GEN11 and 12, should work to avoid adverse effects on biodiversity.


31. The objectives and policies of the draft NMP recognise and address the potential for effects on the water environment, while recognising that the NMP will work in conjunction with the overall legislative and policy framework for the marine environment. A key issue is accidental spills of oil and chemicals, particularly for the sea fisheries and oil and gas industries. While none of the policies explicitly identify water quality, for example, as an issue, all recognise the need for development and activities in the marine environment to be sustainable. This, taken together with the cross-cutting policies GEN11 and GEN18, should avoid adverse effects on the water environment.


32. The key issue for air quality in the marine environment is emissions of sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particles from vessels. Emission of these pollutants is controlled.

33. None of the sector-specific polices or objectives deals directly with air quality. However, cross-cutting policy GEN15 requires that air quality is taken into consideration when progressing development and use of the marine environment.


34. The objectives and policies of the draft NMP recognise and address the potential for effects on landscape and seascape, while recognising that the NMP will work in conjunction with the overall legislative and policy framework for the marine environment. Some of the sectors explicitly identify landscape policies, for example, aquaculture. Others note the need for development to be sustainable, which includes seascape/landscape interests. For example, offshore renewable energy arrays have the potential for adverse effects on seascape/landscape, the significance of which will depend on the nature of the seascape/landscape in question and on the characteristics of the renewable energy devices being deployed. The policies and objectives for renewable energy recognise the need for development in this sector to be sustainable. For the purposes of this assessment, we have assumed that "sustainable" will therefore include management of unacceptable adverse effects on seascape/landscape. Taken together with the cross-cutting policy GEN14, we therefore anticipate that it will be possible to avoid adverse effects on the most sensitive landscapes and seascapes ( e.g. National Scenic Areas, National Parks).

Historic environment

35. The objectives and policies of the draft NMP recognise and address the potential for effects on the historic environment, while recognising that the NMP will work in conjunction with the overall legislative and policy framework for the marine environment. None of the sectors explicitly recognise historic environment interests; however, the commitment to sustainable development or to minimise environmental cost will contribute to the protection of historic environment features. For example, sea fisheries are known to affect historic environment interests, particularly scallop dredging: Policy 3 ensures protection of the seabed and this will therefore include heritage features. These commitments, taken together with cross-cutting policy GEN13, will work to avoid adverse effects on historic environment interests.

Climatic factors

36. The key issue here for the marine sector is the emission of greenhouse gases ( GHG) as a result of fuel consumption. Most sectors that involve vessels (sea fisheries, shipping) are already aware of the need to reduce both fuel consumption and GHG emissions. Transport, for example, recognises the need to reduce GHG emissions from vessels in port through increasing the availability of shore-based electricity and supporting efficiencies in fleet management and technology advances (Objective 6). Again, we have assumed that GHG emissions have been included in sector-specific definitions of sustainable development. This, taken together with cross-cutting policy GEN19, should act to control such emissions.

Marine sediments

37. The majority of policies recognise marine sediments indirectly, through improved protection of the seabed (sea fisheries) or by reference to sustainable development. Two policies specifically identify the need to prevent effects on coastal processes and/or erosion (telecommunications and aggregates). Again, the cross-cutting policies GEN11, 12 and 17 will work with all objectives and policies to avoid adverse effects on marine sediments.

What are the likely significant socio-economic effects of the draft NMP?

38. The sectoral policies in the draft NMP focus on the long-term sustainability of industries in the marine sector. This will have largely positive socio-economic effects, e.g. safeguarding and/or creation of jobs; increased employment in remote island or rural communities supporting community cohesion and resilience; long-term viability of traditional employment sectors such as fishing, alongside development of new sectors such as recreation and tourism. Additional benefits arise from the safeguarding of lifeline ferry routes.

39. Whilst some types of development have the potential for adverse environmental effects, the policies address these by promoting a sustainable approach to planning and decision-making.

40. The sectoral policies also set out clear requirements for engagement and communication between the sectors, as well as means for the resolution of conflict between them. Again, this should contribute to the long-term viability and diversity of the marine sector.

41. Socio-economic and environmental benefits are expected from the draft NMP's cross-cutting policies: whilst there is a strong emphasis on economic growth, this is within the context of sustainable development, and a balance between economic, social and environmental objectives is emphasised. Positive effects on communities, population and human health will arise, for example, from the continuing commitment to community engagement in the marine planning and decision-making processes. Significant adverse environmental effects should also be avoided by the early consideration of environmental factors in these processes.

What are the likely combined effects of the draft NMP with other plans, when viewed together?

42. The assessment of cumulative effects has looked at the combined effects of the NMP and Scottish Planning Policy, as both are high-level, policy-based documents. The two will work together to set out a framework of social, economic and environmental policies which identify the issues to be taken into account when developing spatial plans and which are to be applied in making decisions about projects and/or activities in the marine and terrestrial environments. These cross-cutting policies also apply to the sectoral and subject-specific policies in the two plans. The cumulative effect of this overarching policy framework is that economic growth is supported, focusing on the right type of development in the right place. The cross-cutting and sector-specific policies of the two policy frameworks will work to avoid and, where appropriate, reduce the potential adverse effects of development on coastal and marine communities (including social effects) and on the coastal and marine environment.

How can these effects be avoided or reduced?

43. Avoidance or reduction of adverse effects has been built into the draft NMP, through inclusion of the cross-cutting policies. These set an overarching framework that applies to all planning and decision-making activities in the marine environment. The wide-ranging nature of these cross-cutting policies (sustainable economic growth, sustainable development, factors for consideration in decision-making - social, community, economic, environmental - as well as requirements for early engagement) means that they will act as balancing measures across the whole policy framework. Thus policies focused on development will be balanced by policies about communities or environment. Development proposals, for example, will need to be progressed and assessed in the context of this balanced policy framework.

44. Much will depend on the implementation of the cross-cutting and sectoral policies, and the regional marine planning system will have a crucial role to play in this regard, as will marine licensing and town and country planning.

What happens next?

45. Following consultation, the draft NMP will be revised in response to comments made on the draft plan and the Sustainability Appraisal Report. The revised draft NMP will then be laid before the Scottish Parliament for consideration. It is expected that the NMP will be adopted and a Post-Adoption Statement published by the end of 2014.

46. The Post-Adoption Statement will explain how issues raised in the sustainability appraisal, and associated views in response to the consultation, have been addressed.

How do I respond to the consultation?

47. Views on the draft NMP and the findings of the sustainability appraisal are now invited.

48. Copies of the draft NMP, the SA report, the BRIA and EQIA are available for viewing during office hours at the Scottish Government library at Saughton House, Edinburgh (K Spur, Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh, EH11 3XD).

49. Please send your comments to the Marine Scotland NMP team, by 13 November 2013, at the following address:

Marine Scotland NMP team
1A (South)
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh EH6 6QQ
E-mail -

Telephone - 0131 244 7838


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